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Tag "machine"

I will be giving my upgrade presentation today in the form of a CASA seminar. It is under the title: “UrbanDiary – The Spatial Narrative of Everyday Life or the construction of time and space in the city”.
The abstract: This PhD research project focuses on cycles and rhythms in the urban environment. Cycles such as day and night or the rush-hour – there are a number of repetitive patterns occurring in the city.
These patterns are the result of spatial and social organisation methods, but they are involved in the organisation of the city as a system.
The hypothesis is that these rhythms stand in a direct relationship to the urban morphology.
The presentation of posted here is now updated.

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I am currently very fascinated by everything machine. We’ll as you can guess or experience your self there is very little that would not fall into this category, in terms of conception. However this might also simply be a preconditioned view through the glasses of the ticking ticking ticking blog topic with the idea of cycles and rhythms.
What ever it is here is an update to an other post on the human machine, referring to concepts picturing the body as a machine. Famously Fritz Kahn stands for the most complete work of this idea.

Image by Anatomies by Fernando Vicente – Illustration in the style of Fritz Kahn

However there is a beautiful project by Henning Lederer to animate the drawings of Fritz Kahn and brings them to life. It was produced as an university Master project, details on HERE. Detailed project information can be downloaded as a PDF. Henning also writes a very fascinating blog on everything related to the topic of machines and animation with a string of beautiful examples.

Der Mensch als Industriepalast [Man as Industrial Palace] from Henning Lederer on Vimeo.

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The late 19th century was the time of the machines and the industrial revolution was in full swing. Machines where everything and adored by a great number of people, including scientist (guess they are still today), architects and artists. Le Corbusier was a big fan of the automobile and the ocean liner. The fascination was very strong and in many of his projects references to these machines can be fond. He even wrote: “A house is a machine for living in” (Times). The “Form follows function” coined by Louis Sullivan phrase could also be seen in this context. Others were looking at the city for example Antonio Sant’Elia the Italian artist with his machine dreams of the city. Several movies pick up this topic, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The idea of the city as a machine has replaced the image of a medieval city, that is dark, narrow, alive but out of control. The industrial city as a machine had an internal function and each piece was understood to be full filing a role, there is a very strong sense of control. To some extend this is still how the city is imagined, as a huge interlinked machine that someone is in charge of. Only in the very late century some new description of the city emerge linking it to organic structures.

Image by Antonio Sant’Elia, 1914 – La Città Nuova – taken from storiacontemporanea

During the machine period also the human body was subject to imagination as being a machine. It is the time where sport and sport competition became important and the training of the human, mostly male body, as a machine was convenient.
The artwork of Fritz Kahn falls into this period and illustrates the ideas beautifully. Metaphors have probably always been used to explain human body events. Phrases like “Butterflies in our stomach”, “eardrums”, “and eyeballs“, the heart is ”broken“ or our ”mind’s eye“. These mental visualizations can illustrate feelings to help make them better understandable for others, since they are very personal and experienced individually.
The time was all about efficiency and industrial production was reaching very high levels of production. In this context is easier to understand how people have tried to push the human body. Suddenly the in context of the machine the unpredictable aspects of the human body became a threat that medical science tried to overcome and probably still is.
But some other aspects of understanding of the body are important at the time. The industrial evolution also introduced the human body to new forms of movement. The train and the car meant that dramatically different speeds could be experienced and time and distance in relation to the body had to be newly defined. The very big change was the fact that flying was now possible. The human body was able, with the help of the machine, to fly in the air, just like birds.

Image by Fritz Kahn – taken from morbidanatomy and dreamanatomy

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UrbanMachine is a new series on UrbanTick that explores the idea of the city as a machine. It is of course inspired by the topic of cycles and it might be in a sense a literal translation of a clockwork. But even so, there are elements that work in such a way like the public transport, others like water and electricity are just “available” anytime one plugs the plug or opens the tap. What about the waste management or cleaning, maybe public service in general? The aim is to investigate what makes the city tick on the level of very basic, everyday tasks done by regular women and men. It is a bout infrastructure but also the service that keeps this structure in shape, physically and socially.

To start this topic, what better way than to look at the modern city. The modern city has many different faces, but here we are looking at the “real” modern city in the modern sense of the movement of the early 20th century. Maybe modern city could be replaced with “The Functional City”. This term comes even closer to the idea of the urbanMachine, probably this is where the term is inspired from.
The machine was central to a lot of the modern ideas and admired as the ultimate thing and applicable to any task. Le Corbusier admired the ocean liners as complete entities and of course as functional triumph. Some if the liners formal features even play a role in his building designs.
This machinist fetish has lead to dramatic constructions in the modern movement. From buildings to urban theories the function was top of the list. Even today, the city would be compared to a machine by a lot of people, when asked.
In terms of urban design, the functional approach has a very long tradition. The formalization and rationalization of urban spaces has always been part of planning approaches. From early Chinese cities, to Roman layouts, to garden cities, to new towns, the city was compromised into a single perspective. This approach is tightly interwoven with subjects of power, representation and truth. These aspects are also inherent in the modern movement, although they where able to introduce a shift from a personal focus to a more institutionalized reign of the plan as the central holder of truth. Together with this the architect/planner as the creator of the plan slipped into a unique position.
Within this context the term functional city could have a slightly different meaning. It is a more scientific meaning that imposes a great deal of rationality and logic.

Image taken from NAi Publishers

The book “The Functional City – The CIAM and Cornelius van Esteren, 1928 – 1960” edited by Kees Somer brings together the history of the CIAM from 1928 to 1960 with a specific focus on Cornelius van Eesteren as a member of the movement. It is published by NAi Publishers in early 2007.
Before talking about the content, some words on the physical book. It is a large and thick book, one of the category A4+. The design and layout is brilliant, from the font pallet to the implementation and instrumentalization of images. It is one of these books that you just buy after seeing the cover and having read the title you are on the way to the till, where you get a chance to flip your thumb through the pages while you pay.
Coming back to the content, I cant really read the introduction as in my copy it is, together with the books table of content in Dutch. Only from the first chapter on it is written in English, don’t know why.
Anyway, the story starts with the first CIAM congress in La Sarraz, June 1928. From there the forming of the CIAM in relation to other movements of the time is described. It all begins with a chaotic struggle to hold the opposition and find a position. In fact the book show and highlights through out the story that in fact the struggle was part of the CIAM. Things where always rushed and different opinions made it difficult for the group to unfold their impact. But one of the first actual manifestations of the CIAM ideas is probably the “Siedlung am Weissenhof” der Werkbundausstellung Studgart in 1927. The CIAM went through phases, starting from the public housing (Weissenhof) and working through different steps to the urban structure and implied a methodological link between the smallest and the largest spatial unit: the house unit and the city. This led to the catchy triad ‘home-neighborhood-city’(Somer)
In this sense the focus city has grown. This makes sense as the members where all architects and the discipline of urban planner and urban designer was only just invented.
The book is structured into five steps ordered as topics of content and objectives of the group. This is as mentioned before from public housing to urban planning, but on the other hand from CIAM the working group to the limits of collectivity.
In a sense the struggle with cooperation and compromises is the line that runs through the book. Along this the different developments on theorization of urban planning, especially in chapter four “Comparative Urban Planning”, is developed. That the actual representation, mapping, cartography and visual statistics where actual topics of the CIAM was new to me. This is beautifully illustrated with plans and drawings from CIAM members.
The term functional city is part of this “newly develop” approach and consists of four topic. The simple division between the group of housing, recreation, work and traffic. “The structure reflected the situation of scientific urban planning at that moment. … This modern vision of urban planning was based on the insight hat the most important aspects of social life could be summed up in a nutshell as housing, work and recreation, all linked by traffic” (Van der Would (1983), p 131)
throughs out the book photographs are used as documentation and evidence of activities and persons. This has a beautiful side effect, it illustrates through the course of the book how the members grow old. Not in a voyeuristic sense, but in a more natural sense. This give the course of the CIAM as a movement even more weight in terms of its development and achievement. The young founding members feature on page 18, including Le Corbusier and have visually aged on page 227, Le Corbusier and Cornelius van Eesteren.
This beautiful human portrait makes it a great read beside all the historic facts it redraws the course of drama with real characters.

Somer, K., Van, E.&.V.L.S. & Amsterdam, (., 2007. The Functional City: The CIAM and Cornelis Van Eesteren, 1928-1960, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

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